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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 June, 2004, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
UN rallies world to help refugees
Angelina Jolie with Sudanese child
Jolie visited Sudanese refugees in at a camp in Chad
Events are being held around the world to highlight the plight of the world's millions of refugees, as part of World Refugee Day on Sunday.

The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, is trying to draw attention to the challenges it faces in trying to help refugees and displaced people.

Last year saw a reduction in refugees, but 17 million people still fled their homes because of war or persecution.

The current crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan is latest to face the UNHCR.

World Refugee Day is an attempt to get the international community to remember the refugees' plight and do more to help them.

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers and Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie are in Barcelona for events including a dialogue on conflict resolution and reconciliation and an annual awards ceremony.

People at risk by region in 2003
1. Europe - 5.4m
2. Central Asia, Southwest Asia, North Africa, Middle East - 4m
2. Africa - 4m
4. Americas and Caribbean - 2.3m
5. Asia-Pacific - 1.4m

Other scheduled events include an Ecuadorian festival of films directed by refugees and a march by refugee students in Sierra Leone.

Pope John Paul II used his weekly address in Saint Peter's square to urge the international community to do more to help refugees.

"Every person needs a safe environment to live in," he said.

'Logistical nightmare'

One area where help is urgently needed is in Darfur in western Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of civilians caught up in fighting are facing starvation.

More than a million people have fled their homes. Some have managed to escape to neighbouring Chad, where they are getting aid from the UNHCR.

Ms Jolie visited the refugees in Chad earlier this month.

The camps are under-funded and the situation is a "logistical nightmare," she told BBC News Online's Talking Point programme.

"There is panic on the ground to get people to safety.

"We need funding - but we just have to get in there," she added.

Angelina Jolie at refugee camp in Chad

But the UNHCR says elsewhere the news is more positive - with many refugees returning home voluntarily - especially in Afghanistan.

More than three million Afghans have returned there since the overthrow of the Taleban two-and-a-half years ago.

The UNHCR says 1.1 million refugees were repatriated last year, with 133,000 returning to Angola, 82,000 to Burundi, 55,000 to Iraq and large numbers to other countries.

But it says with conditions far from ideal in many of these places, recently returned refugees still need help from the international community to rebuild their lives, to ensure they stay in their home countries.

The agency says that the vast majority go home through voluntary repatriation, but other solutions include integration of refugees in countries of first asylum or resettlement to a third country.

Claims for asylum status by country in 2003
1. Russian Federation - 38,900
2. China - 37,100
3. Serbia and Montenegro - 36,700
4. Democratic Republic of the Congo - 35,800
5. Turkey - 33,800

During 2003, some 807,000 claims for asylum or refugee status were submitted in 141 countries.

According to the UNHCR, the top five countries where people sought asylum last year were Pakistan, Iran, Germany, Tanzania and the US.




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